Sunday, January 27, 2013

Happy 2013

Sister Roota, Me, Sister Mahit, Sister Lewis celebrate New Years on our P day.  Hats complements of Kimo and Kaye

 For New Years the Senior Missionaries were invited to Pres and Sister Shaw's house for a prime rib dinner and games.  We went home around 10:30.  Then around midnight the kids in the area start coming around singing songs and knocking on your door for treats.  Its like Halloween in the middle of the night.  The knocking and singing carried on until 2:30 AM.  What a crazy custom. The Sister missionaries, Sister Woods and I also got together on P Day New Years Eve day to make gingerbread houses and celebrate the new years.  They took the gingerbread houses to some investigators.  My sister Linda and family had sent me the gingerbread kits.  It was so fun.  I don't think the Sisters one from Kiribati and one from Vanuatu had ever seen anything like gingerbread houses before

Me, Sister Woods, Sister Mahit, and Sister Roota making Gingerbread houses
Sister Barlow, me Sister Woods, Siste Wayas and Sister Hillbourne

We live about 7 degrees north of the equator, so its pretty hot all year long.  January has been hot and humid and a little bit rainy.  When the sun is behind the clouds or it is rainy the temperature might drop a degree or two, but its still hot. I think the average year round temperature is 86 with a very very high humidity which makes it seem much hotter. I have never yet been cold or needed a jacket of any kind.  Long sleeve shirts are definitely too hot for this climate.  We run in the mornings from 6:30-7:30 am and I always come back totally drenched.  I have to constantly remind the Elders and Sisters to drink water to avoid becoming dehydrated, which can cause them to get nauseated, and start to throw up or get headaches.

The Senior Sisters always get together for lunch when it is some one's birthday.  Its fun.  They don't have many restaurants but this one called Tide Table is pretty good

The Senior couples here are awesome.  We all get along great.  Elder and Sister Wayas work in the office.  Sister Wayas is like the head secretary to President Shaw and the mission.  Elder Wayas is in charge of fixing bikes, doing the newletter, and is a wonderful artist.  He used to be our neighbor when we were little and lived in Hawaii.  He and his brothers and sister and parents lived behind our house in Laie.  They are from Arizona and have 7 children who are just beautiful with the Haole, Hawaiian, Filipino mix. (I will tell about the other couples later in this post)

Me, on an islet in the atoll on our Senior P-day a few weeks ago.

We have a lot of fun as senior missionaries and go someplace on just about every P day.  Here we are on a boat going to a little islet.  This is Sister Wayas, Sister Barlow and me.
Sister Wayas, Bister Barlow, and Me
Kids playing with a cooler.
Even though it is hot, it seems to be the cold and flu season.  I have had quite a few missionaries come down with Upper Respiratory Infections or stomach flu.  Luckily they usually resolve quickly.  Other missionary health problems include ingrown toenails, knee and back pain, rashes, and a few fungal infections.  We have also had a couple of more serious problems but I do believe the Lord is blessing us with mostly good health and strength. I actually had two elders this past week that I had to send to the hospital to have blood titers for possible Dengue Fever.  Luckily the tests came back negative.

Sister Woods, me Elder Woods, Sister Bonnemort, Elder Bonnemort, Sister Wayas, Elder Wayas

President Shaw has let some of the senior couples visit the other part of our mission.  We got to entertain Elder and Sister Bonnemort, the nurse and her husband, who are serving in Kirabati.  They are getting ready to go home in  March.  At one time I was going to fly to Kirabati and stay until a new nurse was called.  The President felt strongly that that was needed, since Kiribati has fewer doctors and the hospital is more needy there than it is here.  I took them around to visit some of the doctors, the hospital, pharmacy and other interesting health related place here on Majuro.  I think they had a good time.  I am not going to be going to Kirabati to be the nurse for a few months because they were able to get a nurse to transfer there from another location.  That will mean she can get there in time before the Bonnemort's leave.  I am glad they were able to get one because I think they need one here too.  I do hope (and President Shaw mentioned it too) that I will be able to see Kirabati sometime before I leave.  Maybe I will get to go to a zone conference there sometime.

You know how it is after the excitement of the holidays...everything seems a little unexciting and routine.  We have still had lots of fun on P Days as senior missionaries and more important than that...the work is going forward.  We have many baptisms every Saturday in our mission.  I always love going to them and feeling the special spirit there and to be able to congratulate the new members.

In the middle of a little village there is a WWII Japanese Bunker
Sister Barlow. and me at the Bunker

There is an old WWII Japanese Bunker on Majuro in the little village of Rita.  In order to get to it, you have to go walk through some people's houses and shops.  We did it anyway though and it is very interesting. 

Elder and Sister Barlow work in the office.  Sister Barlow is in charge of ordering, and petty cash and does many things for the mission.  Elder Barlow is in charge of missionary houses.  They are from Payson, Utah, but have a home in Mexico, a cabin by Bryce Canyon, and served a mission in Samoa with their kids about 10 or more years ago.  They have snorkeled all over the world.  Awesome friends.

YM and YW in my ward learning about First Aid
I had them pretend to wash their hands (using hand sanitizer)
I did a first aid/keeping healthy class for the young men and young women in our ward. last week.  It was pretty basic.  What do we need to do to become more healthy?I had them wash hands using hand sanitizer, Wash and put a bandage on someone else's sore, and we did wounds and I made a couple of them with my wound mix and fake blood.  Then I had the kids come and up front and show how to put on direct pressure and a pressure bandage.  It was fun.We are going to do it every couple of months and eventually get to CPR.  A little 11 year old girl died here about two weeks ago from choking on some meat.  Nobody knew the first aid for a choking victim.  There is a lot of need to educate people about things like this.     

One of the Young Women Leaders and her son
Some boys putting bandaids on each other (After they washed it)
One of the YM treating the impaled object
Direct pressure to a bleeding wound
Everyone seemed to enjoy the class.
Elder Woods playing his flute for the children
The Senior Missionaries and the APS
We said good-bye to Elder and Sister Hillbourne this month.  It was sad to see them leave.  They are from New Zealand and have been here for two years.  Elder Hillbourne has been in charge of all of the facilities management for the Marshall Islands.  Sister Hillbourne has been the secretary and has planted beautiful flowers at all of the chapels here.  They have done wonderful work here and will be deeply missed.  They lived right above me and I will miss them a lot.
Elder and Sister Hillbourne

Elder and Sister Woods  are from Orem, Utah.  They are CES/Humanitarian missionaries here.  They are really fun and are so good to me.  I run with Sister Woods in the mornings at 6:30 am.  They have 6 children .  They have done a great job here in the Marshall Islands.  They are in charge of all the seminaries and institute here as well as .work on projects to help the community.  Some of their projects have been to donate sewing machines to a school, ukuleles to a youth group, pans to the Wellness Center and many more.  (Picture of Elder woods above and Sister Woods below)
Sister Woods, Sister Hillbourne and me

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Biit

My Christmas Tree
The Marshallese celebrate Christmas by singing, dancing, and eating.  Usually this is done in the churches or neighborhoods all over the Marshall Islands.  For our church here on Majuro, the whole stake gets together at the stake center and they have canopies set up all over for different wards to have food  It is the biggest celebration of the year and the wards  practice for months to get their songs and dances ready.  Everybody dresses in Sunday best or in the clothes that their ward is wearing to do the dances.  This year it started off with a broadcast at 9 am of the First Presidency Devotional on a big screen. Then some of the primaries began to do their dancing and other groups follow.  They had an hour break for lunch and then the missionaries did our number and finally the wards began doing their program.  Each ward had about half hour scheduled, but most were well over an hour.  After all six wards and one branch did their programs, other churches and groups came in to do their numbers.  I didn't stay until the end, but I understand it didn't finish until 12:30 am.  Here are a few pictures
Elder Walden, Elder Winters, Elder Kaka (from Laie) and Elder Aaron dressed for the missionary Biit

The Elders and Sisters in the mission did a dance from Kiribati.  The Elders all wore their white shirts and ties and Santa hats.  The Sisters wore a specially made Kiribati shirt with our names on it.  I  need to get some pictures of us doing our biit dance to add here.  We had some members take pictures but I haven't got copies yet. We had a really fun time doing it. The Senior missionaries practiced a lot for the number but the young Elders and Sisters only got a couple of practices.  Several of our missionaries are from Kiribati and already knew the dance.

The Senior Sisters in our Biit shirts from Kiribati

Primary children from one of the wards dancing in the Biit

The Primary Children in a lot of the wards did their own dances.  The children were all dressed in their best with their hair done up cute.  Many of the children wore red and green for their dance costumes.  Many of the little girls had their hair done cute with braids and flowers.

The missionary Prep class singing a hymn

Primary Children dancing in the Biit
There are a lot of the YSAs that are preparing for missions.  It is really exciting to see.  Many of them are getting their education at the College of the Marshall Islands.  There are several RMs both girls and boys who have returned home and are giving wonderful service to their wards.  They are truly the leaders of the future.  Many of them are called to Oaklahoma, Arkansas, or Seattle Washington where there are lots of Marshallese people. 

Most of the dances are kind of line dances where the boys are on one side and the girls on the other.  Its almost a cross between regae and country western sometimes. 

This is a picture of some of the children from my primary in the Long Island Ward.  Our regular ward performance consisted of a hymn "Angels We Have Heard On High", three Marshallese songs and three Marshallese dances.  Right at the first of November they asked me to play the piano (keyboard) for the hymn.  Because of this I went to all of the practices they had.  In some ways that was a very frustrating situation but also a really good one because I was able to really become friends with many of the people in my ward.  The reason it was frustrating is that it was four nights a week for two months.  It was supposed to start at 7 pm but never ever started then and in fact towards the end it was after 8 when they did finally practice.  People here like to sit around and just wait and visit.  It must not bother them much because they do it all the time.  Its like most things are expected to start late.  Anyway, I went to all but two of the practices for that long  They always did my song first so I could leave if I had to, but by the time the Biit happened, I knew all the songs and dances and it was really fun. 

Dancing at the Biit

Elder Seru dancing at the Biit

When the Elders and Sisters have served in a ward, they get up with their ward and dance with them even if they don't know the dances.  Some of the missionaries dance with several wards
More Elders dancing with a ward

The big thing in each presentation is that one of the men or boys blows a whistle and that is the way that he directs the members of his group.  Some of the groups

The Ajeltake Branch doing a dance with fans

Head flowers are common either live or with pandanas and shells

The Rita ward dancing
Young people dancing from one of the wards

More cute little boys who came to my door to sell me sea shells.  I gave them some little treat bags

I think all these little boys are so cute that come selling shells

Some of these little boys were knocking on my door at 7:30 am Christmas morning.  I was able to give them some little bags of candy and toys.  They had such big smiles on their faces.

More Christmas decorations at my house along with all of my grandchildren's pictures

I want to thank so many of my family and friends for wonderful Christmas greetings, cards, gifts, and food.  You really made my Christmas very special.  It was hard in some ways, but we kept very busy as senior tmissionaries and as a result there wasn't time to feel sad.  On Christmas Day (American) I had lots of missionaries over at my house waiting for their companions to finish calling their families.  We ate treats, watched church videos and just relaxed.  Everybody was able to call home.  Most of the island missionaries and missionaries from New Zealand called their families on the day of the Biit, since that was when Christmas was for their families.

My apartment decorated with lights
Kommol Tata wonderful family and friends!
(Thank you very much)

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Meri Kirimaj


Meri Kirimaj from the Marshall Islands
Meri Kirimaj
Me at the Mission Home
The week of Christmas was very busy.  We had 11 new missionaries join us on the 20th of Dec.  That meant getting ready to give them a short course on staying healthy in the Marshall Islands.  They are a great bunch of missionaries.  All but two of them are from the United States.  One is from New Zealand and the other is from Austrailia.  On Dec 24th, the mission had a big dinner for all the missionaries serving on Majuro and the outer islands.  Everyone on our side of the mission came back for Christmas except for those serving on Ebeye.  They have 4 Elders and 2 Sisters and a senior couple serving there. (That is where the Mills served)  We had a great dinner and then played a tie/earring exchange game and then watched The Forgotten Carols.  It was a fun day.  I went home and spent Christmas Eve at my apartment.  I read the Christmas Story in Luke and wrote an E-mail to my kids to tell them how much I loved and missed them.  The next morning, I woke up at 7 am when these little boys were knocking on my door.  They always come to sell me sea shells or Marshellese handicrafts or coconuts.  I had told them to come on Christmas that I had a little gift for them.They were so excited to get the gifts that my wonderful Children had sent to give to them.  It was probably their only gift in most cases.
Some of my favorite little children.  I gave them a little Christmas gift thanks to my kids who sent little gifts for them
These kids were knocking on my door at 7 am on Christmas morning
I don't think that many of the children get Christmas presents.  They loved the little gifts given to them

The Christmas parade that went around the atoll on the Saturday before Christmas
More little boys who loved the gifts and candy

There were probably 20 decorated trucks
Trucks decorated with palm leaves

There weren't too many Christmas decorations but you saw a few.  We decorated the mission office and had lights out with a sign that said Christ is the Reason for the Season. Some of the stores had a few decorations up.  One of the biggest stores on the atoll had a big Christmas sale.  They were giving 20% off so we all went. It is a food store that also has a bunch of everything in it.   This big day of the sale,  Santa had dropped in and was all ready to see children. He was in a separate room that was off to the side of the store and very hot.  I poked my head in to see how many children were in there and there was Santa asleep and not a soul was in there.  I think the Marshallese culture hasn't done a lot with Santa in the past.  Most of the people probably don't even go to the store much .Anyway,  I am sure that as the Marshall Islands  gets more commercial, Santa will get a few more visitors.  Many of the people kind of live off the land eating breadfruit, fish, pandana, coconut.and rice.  If they do go to the store,  they will go to these little Mon Wiias that are like little neighborhood shacks  that have a few canned goods, rice and a few things that the people like to buy if they need things.  Most of them make really good donuts.
Elders lined up to eat our good dinner of turkey, ham, mashed potatoes etc.
The cute sisters at the dinner
The Senior Sister missionaries who prepared the food
Elder and Sister Hillbourne from New Zealand.  They leave the first of January
Elder Kaka (from Laie) and Elder Watson

We have been getting together as Senior missionaries for dinner a lot.  Once a month we have a FHE with soup and dessert and scripture reading.  Other times we get together to watch a good DVD.  We enjoy getting together.  The Hillbournes have been here for 2 years.  They have been in charge of the Physical Maintance of all of the church buildings in the Marshall Islands.  He recently traveled by boat to a little atoll known as Lae and refurbrished the little missionary house that is there.  We just sent two Elders back there.  They were there a few years ago, but were taken off when their house began to leak and have trouble.  It took a while to be able to get it fixed.  There are only about 450 people on the little atoll.  But, we have a little church building with a missionary house behind it.  Elder Kaka (picture on the left) is one of the Elders who will be reopening the Atoll of Lae.

Christmas Day was fun.  So many people had sent greetings and packages and it was really fun to read and open the packages.  Thanks to all of you for being such a great support.  Later in the morning I went to some of the senior missionaries houses for breakfast and then we all went to the Biit.  My next entry is about the Biit.

The Sisters at dinner.  All of them got stockings

My wonderful family also sent stockings to many of the missionaries.  Some of our Elders and Sisters are from the islands and don't get packages from their families.  They got together and decided to do this kind thing for many of  missionaries. 
Elder Aaron from Kiribati and Elder Vaaulu from Samoa

Elder Seru from Fiji and Elder Peck from the Utah I think

Elder Benevides from New Zealand and Elder Singadrodro from Fiji at a baptism
A view of the chapel in Ajeltake
I feel bad that I didn't get a picture of all the stockings before I gave them out.  I gave them to all of the sisters and several of the Elders.  They loved and appreciated this gift.  Thank you to my family.

We had a baptism the Saturday before Christmas.  What a wonderful white Christmas.  Elder Benevides and Elder Singa as we call him go to my ward along with a set of sister missionaries and the APs.  We have had a lot of baptisms the past few months.  The work is really going forward.  I think around Christmas there is a lot going on so it slows down just a little. 

I spent most of Christmas Day at the church for the Biit.  It went from 9am and I understand it ended at about 12:30 am.  That evening the Elder and Sister Barlow invited me to have Christmas dinner with them.  They are a wonderful senior couple from Payson.  They love to snorkel and in fact have snorkeled all over the world.  I enjoyed the special dinner with them. 
The ocean at low tide by across from the Ajeltake Chapel
Boats on the lagoon

At this Christmas time, I want to thank my Heavenly Father for the opportunity I have to serve as a missionary for Him.  He has blessed me greatly and for that I am truly grateful.  Most importantly he has blessed me with a wonderful family, with good health and strength and the ability to carry on.   I know He is there to hear and answer our prayers.  I know He knows us each individually by name and understands our struggles and our joys.  I am grateful at this time for my Savior Jesus Christ and for His atonement for me. I am grateful for His birth over 2000 years ago and as I celebrate Christmas today, I know that He is in charge.  His work will go forth until it has spread over the earth.  I am happy to be a part of that great work.

The weather here in the Marshall Islands is great.  It is hot and humid.  We never need a jacket or sweater...not even at night.  Sometimes it rains and when it does, it pours.  The ocean and lagoon are very beautiful and I love to just watch the boats, which I find very fascinating.

Same place during the day

My wonderful friend Rena.  She is in my ward and works at the mission office